Mexican burrowing frog

The Mexican Burrowing frog, or to give it its 'proper' name, the Rhinophrynus dorsalis, is an unusual-looking frog.  

It lives underground, in lowland forests and coastal plains mainly being found on the east coast of Mexico, along the Yucatan peninsula, Costa Rica and northeastern Honduras.

Although this frog is common, it is rarely seen, as they prefer to live underground.  They will emerge to the surface following the heavy rain and it is then that they take advantage of the floodwaters and mate and lay their eggs.

  • The Mexican burrowing frog has a body that is as long as it is broad.  
  • It has a small head
  • It has short limbs (not great for walking, but excellent for burrowing)
  • It is dark gray with some pinkish-white splashes on its face and flanks
  • It has a noticeable pink or orange stripe down the middle of its back
  • They have short front legs with no webbing
  • Their hind legs are heavily webbed - helping them to swim and they have two elongated tubercles for digging.
  • Their diet consists mostly of ants and termites found underground in nests and tunnels

When they float on the surface of the floodwaters they 'sing' or 'call' in choruses.  When they aren't 'singing' their bodies become flaccid and their skin becomes 'baggy' looking almost as though they have too much skin for their bodies.

The male Mexican burrowing frog has a pair of vocal sacs (internally) and as they inflate themselves and float on the surface they make this call with a loud and resonant 'whooooo' call.  They call in large groups and can be heard up to 1km away.

Typically of frogs, the female frog is larger than the male and she will lay a few thousand small eggs following inguinal amplexus.  These eggs will float to the surface and hatch within a few days.

The Mexican Burrowing Frog tadpoles

The tadpoles of the Mexican burrowing frog:

  • Live in the midwater.  They feed by filtering large amounts of water and extracting organic material as their food.  
  • have flat heads and eyes each side of their mouth
  • have 11 barbels around their mouth which presumably helps them direct food into the mouth
  • have no teeth and no hard beak to help them scrape food from hard surfaces
  • live in large shoals of between 50 and a few hundred
  • all point the same way and move in synchrony with each other

These frogs have a feeding mechanism considered to be unique among frogs.  They have flat tongues when contracted, but this tongue can be made to become rod-like.  The tongue can then push through a groove at the front of the lower jaw.  Being an underground frog, it has not actually been possible for scientists to observe this feeding action, but the belief among those scientists is that the frog pushes its 'snout' through a wall /tunnel of a termite nest and flicks its tongue out to capture the prey living there.

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